How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Bowl?

March 12, 2020

​Keeping up on cleaning a dog’s food or water bowl is something that most dog owners tend to let slide here and there. In fact, because it is so easy to simply refill the bowls with food and water each day, it is a wonder the bowels get cleaned at all. However, no matter how clean your dog may lick his or her bowl, it actually is not clean.

Because of this, dog owners might benefit from some clarification as to how frequently you should clean your dog’s bowls. Just as useful are some tips for keeping your dog’s bowl clean on a day-to-day basis as well as some elaboration on why keeping your dog’s bowls clean is even important in the first place.

​Recommended Cleaning Schedule

​Because a dog’s bowl that is not cleaned frequently will become a breeding ground for a variety of bacteria, it is important to wash your dog’s bowl a lot more than you might have initially guessed. For instance, if you do not keep your dog’s bowl clean, your dog will essentially be licking up bacteria every day. As such, it is recommended that you wipe the bowls at least once each day. Like everything else, dogs can get sick. Puppies and older dogs can be especially vulnerable. However, cleaning the bowls will help decrease the likelihood bacteria will grow and help ensure your puppy's health is not put at risk.

Of course, the kind of food you feed your dog will factor into how often you will need to clean the food bowl. For instance, if your dog eats dry food, such as kibble, you can simply clean or wipe down your dog’s food bowl once per day. However, if your dog dines on either raw or wet dog food, you will need to follow a more frequent routine of cleaning the bowl after each meal. This is because germs thrive on the moisture that is found in wet or canned food. Additionally, when raw food is not refrigerated, it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. In fact, the germs that multiply much faster on raw or wet food can lead to a trip to the vet. This happens less frequently in bowls used to serve dry dog food.

​Things to Consider

​If you own a dishwasher, it is recommended that you run both your dog's water and food bowls through a cycle at a minimum frequency of at least once per week. The reason this frequency is such a great idea is that your dishwasher heats the water to an extremely high temperature and easily destroys anything that will make your pet sick.

However, if you feed your dog raw meat or wet food, harmful germs proliferate more often and much more quickly. Consequently, it is best to put the food bowl through the dishwasher about every two or three days. You might not think the water bowl can get infected, but cross contamination will occur the moment your dog eats from one bowl then drinks from the other. Keeping this in mind, it is best to wash both bowls with one another. Washing them at the same time ensures your dog starts with clean, safe bowls. If you wash them separately, the unwashed bowl will simply begin the cross-contamination process, resulting in two equally filthy bowls.

Of course, once the bowls are washed, you will undoubtedly notice how using your dishwasher results in sparkling bowls, and this act of healthy cleanliness for your dog will easily motivate you to maintain this routine. Other motivating factors include the fact that as a side benefit, you will love how the room where you keep your bowls feels cleaner. Because the clean bowls will provide a stark contrast to just how oily and dirty they become over time, you will also begin to anticipate when too much time has passed and just how dirty the bowls are becoming.

Avoiding the use of powerful detergents or strong soaps in your cleaning routine is highly recommended. It is also important to avoid the use of soaps that have a strong smell. Strong soaps can have the unwanted effect of making your dog not want to eat his or her food. To ensure this does not happen, you can simply choose a soap that is designed to kill bacteria but is also gentle enough to not cause an upset stomach or make the food smell off.

In regards to running your dog’s bowls through your dishwasher, it is recommended that you do not use detergent. Although this might sound odd at first, the high temperature of the water is actually doing all the work as it is the high temperature, not the soap, that kills the bacteria. To use this approach, you can simply place the bowls in the dishwasher, and set the dishwasher to the economy setting. In addition to thoroughly killing any bacteria still on the bowls, choosing this setting will help save water and keep your electric bill within an acceptable range. An unintended perk of using your dishwasher in this fashion is that the water is able to more effectively clean buildup because the dishwasher is practically empty. Cleaning out buildup on a regular basis will help keep your dishwasher performing at an optimal level.

Another thing to consider is the material from which your dog’s bowls are made. For instance, if they are comprised of stainless steel, you will definitely be able to see that the bowls are dirty. That said, even though you can see that the bowls are filthy, stainless steel is relatively difficult to wash well, so you must wash this material often.

When it comes to a porous bowl, like one made from ceramic, you will need to adopt an equally frequent cleaning schedule as porous materials readily absorb food and bacteria. Finally, even though plastic bowls are quite easy to clean, your dog may have difficulty eating from one as plastic bowls are typically light and will slide easily.

Of course, as a side note, if you use a food mat, you should be sure to clean it as well. Remember, any food that happens to fall onto the mat will allow bacteria to grow. Additionally, your dog will eat any food that has spilled onto the mat. As such, it is important that you keep the mat clean to ensure your dog does not get sick.

​Some Final Thoughts

​Clearly, it is important to maintain clean bowls for your dog to eat and drink from. However, because feeding your dog requires very little thought, it is easy to slowly become less and less aware of how dirty your dog’s bowls are becoming over time.

Although it is easy to forget, you must attempt to remember that an unwashed bowl can impact the quality of the food your dog is eating. If the food is exposed to bacteria, consuming the food can negatively impact your dog’s overall health. In fact, dog’s have a much more sensitive digestive tract than most people realize. Being aware of this fact will, in turn, help you realize how important it is to maintain a clean bowl for your dog.

Finally, keeping your dog’s overall health in mind will help you to remember to keep the bowls clean. Adding this simple cleaning routine to your daily routine will eventually help you build a healthy habit that will contribute to your dog's overall fitness. The end result is that you can end up enjoying your dog's unconditional love for years to come.

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